If you're arriving by train, you're in the perfect position to start your day off with a hearty dose of nature. The picturesque Nunobiki Falls are just a 15-minute walk away from Kobe's main station.
For more natural beauty, make your way up Mount Rokko — rather than hiking, save your energy and purchase a ticket for the Rope way—return tickets are around $20and include entry to all the gardens atop the mountain. Once you're there, stop for a spot of brunch with a view at the French-influenced Granite Cafe— put aside $20 for this.
On the mountain, spend a relaxing morning strolling through the various Japanese gardens. And if your feet get tired, pause for a hot spring foot bath for only $2.
After you descend, it's time to do some urban exploring.
Nankinmachi is Kobe's Chinatown district, developed by Chinese merchants who settled near the port in the 1860s. It's a great place to try some street food for lunch. $20
After lunch, it's time to get a taste of what the Nada district is known for—sake. The area is Japan's largest sake producer and many of the breweries in Kobe offer tours and samples.
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery has a comprehensive museum with videos and displays in English— and admission is free. A lot of breweries are in walking distance of each other, so download a sake map from plus.feel-kobe.jp and knock off some others.
Once you've got a nice buzz on, take a tranquil stroll through the Soraku-en Japanese Garden. It costs around $4 to enter and is well worth it to see its arched bridges and beautiful ponds.
As the sun sets head to Meriken Park in Kobe's port district — a great place to get some photos of the city's skyline from the top of the iconic Kobe Port Tower, which costs around $9 to enter.
While you're there, stop by the touching memorial to the 1995 Kobe Earthquake.
You can't visit Kobe without sampling some of its famous beef. It can be very expensive, but it's bound to be one of your best meals in Japan— so set aside a good chunk of your budget for a good piece of steak. Keep your eye out for deals— Steakland is a more affordable option, where you can enjoy a 200-gram Kobe beef meal for around $70.
After dinner, take a quick look around Kobe Harborland— this shopping district on the waterfront is a popular spot for couples to take an evening walk.
Finish your night off with evening drinks at the classy Savoy Kitanozaka cocktail bar. It's a longstanding favourite with locals and its signature drink is the Sol Cubano cocktail, a rum-based drink that comes covered with a slice of grapefruit. $60